The Vision Thing: Let's Do the Time Warp Again

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Criticizing sciencefiction is something of a spectator sport here at Macworld. Many an impromptu review of the previous evening's television has been presented for the edification of fellow editors, whether they want to hear it or not. And, of course, that includes the obligatory heated argument over differences so minute you couldn't view them through an electron microscope.

Even though I'm a die-hard Star Trek fan, I simply can't stomach any TV show–or movie, for that matter–that attempts to deal with time travel. With the possible exception of William Shatner himself, time travel has got to be the most contrived of all sci-fi contrivances.

And yet, here I am, wishing for a time machine of my very own. No, I'm not wishing I could go back to an earlier day and convince a much more callow Steve Jobs that licensing the Mac OS would be a good idea–that would be way too predictable. No, I'd travel back in time almost exactly one year to Macworld Expo '98 in San Francisco so I could give a shockingly accurate forecast of the Mac world in 1998.

Can you imagine people's reactions when I let the iMac out of the bag, a full five months before its debut is fated to stun the world? I could take the veil off the OS named X and explain that it, not Rhapsody, will be the fuel that will power the Mac of the Future. I could also let slip that Apple will close the year with consecutive profitable quarters that will make even the most dedicated disbelievers on Wall Street bow down before its shares. Time travel: the ultimate form of insider trading!

I could predict, with unfailing accuracy, that Mac gaming will return with a vengeance as the Macintosh again becomes a player in the consumer market. I wonder what the Macintosh community of a year ago would have thought of the idea of mobs of people queuing up to buy a Macintosh as if it were a Powerball lottery ticket. Perhaps they would think me mad–there's another sci-fi cliché for you. But as the year wore on and my predictions came true, perhaps they would remember that crazy editor in chief who foresaw the stellar 12 months that was before them and would let him out of his padded basement cell. Or perhaps they'd be too busy basking in the glow of one of the most successful years in the history of the Mac platform.

But wait! If I have a Wayback machine, why not just flip the switch to Wayforward and head for the first Macworld Expo of the new millennium, San Francisco, the year 2000? I can grab the last 12 months' worth of Macworld for some quiet reading on the ride back to 1999.

When I get here, I can write a column foretelling what the year has in store. A new line of desktop Macs won't surprise anyone–you can read about those on the Web. But maybe my prediction that Mac OS X will ship pretty close to on-time–and certainly during 1999–will raise an eyebrow or two. And just think of the facial convulsions when I prognosticate that Mac OS X will be a huge hit and will see unheard-of adoption rates for a totally new OS, as Mac users finally get to see the real power of the G3 processor unleashed by X.

I can also speak coyly of the midyear arrival of an iMac that runs on batteries. This portable for consumers will have many of the values we've come to expect of its deskbound sibling: a breakthrough design, a reasonable price, and a few surprises up its eMate-like sleeve. That the iMac will continue to be a winner seems a given, but a whole line of iMacs? It seems only logical for Apple to create consumer systems with a variety of shapes, sizes, and feature sets.

And then, of course, I'll have to issue a few somber warnings. Beware the Ides of Gates–that sort of thing. One thing I'll be sure to tell my readers is that although 1998 was a year of surprise victories, 1999 will be trench warfare for Apple. Everyone will be watching Apple, and many will be imitating the company's best moves, trying to one-up them. Expect to see a lot of Windows-based iMac knockoffs and maybe a few PowerBook clones as well. And third-party developers will continue to have their Mac loyalties tested.

Of course, all of this is just idle speculation, because, as I said at the beginning of the column, the notion of time travel is absurd. But you have to admit, that's just the kind of thing I'd be likely to say if I had indeed gotten hold of a time machine, isn't it?

Although Andy already knows what comments you're going to make, e-mail anyway, so we avoid any nasty temporal paradoxes.

February 1999 page: 21

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